Traveling on My Terms

Warsaw, Poland

Back in September I wrote a post that I never published about letting go of what I feel I “should” do. I was sitting in a guesthouse in Kuressaare, Estonia trying to decide whether I should stay in my room and relax like I really wanted to or brave less-than-ideal weather to see the island as I felt I should do.

A day earlier I had forced myself out to see more of Tallinn on my last day in the city. The previous week had been a hectic rush of sightseeing through Helsinki and Tallinn and I was exhausted. But the weather was sunny and 70 – absolutely perfect and better than expected. I felt like I should be out and about, not sitting in the hostel on my laptop. Not surprisingly, my heart wasn’t in it and I didn’t really enjoy anything I saw that day.

So when I was sitting there in Kuressaare, I promised myself I would spend the rest of my career break travels doing things I want to do – not things I just feel I should do for one reason or another.
 

I thought back on that promise recently as I wavered over how to spend New Year’s Eve.

 
Back in October, I booked a bed in a hostel in Krakow, wanting to ring in the New Year the same way I did a couple years ago when I said hello to 2009 in Prague.  I liked this idea at the time as I pictured a big party outside in the old town square and fireworks at midnight – very similar to Prague. I also kind of secretly hoped that Krakow might be an attractive enough destination that I could find someone to meet up with me there. No luck.

In early December my hostel sent out an email saying that the traditional celebration on the square in Krakow had been cancelled – and it sounded like clubbing was the most likely alternative.  Yuck. Suddenly I lost all desire to spend New Year’s Eve in Krakow.

Yet there was that voice in my head telling me I should do something cool for New Year’s – especially since I am on the road.  I felt this self-imposed pressure to forge ahead with Krakow because it might make for a better story.  And there were my friends on Facebook all encouraging me to still go to Krakow.
 

I went with my gut and decided to stay in Warsaw.

 
I spent the week leading up to New Year’s Eve reaching out to people at my hostel and on Couchsurfing, looking for possible companions with whom to ring in 2012. I came up empty. I figured I could still head down to Pl. Konstytucija for an outdoor concert and midnight fireworks on my own, but in the end I realized I really didn’t want to.

I had reserved a hotel room for the weekend, not wanting to risk being stuck in a hostel again with a bunch of raucous twenty-something club kids. And I decided to stay in my room, watching college basketball and football online, catching up on blog posts and editing photos, with BBC World News on in the background and fireworks going off outside my window.

And I couldn’t have been happier.
 

While I wrote about my goals and resolutions for 2012 earlier, I think I missed a big one.

 
I admit that I sometimes worry too much about what people think of me, what they think of this trip, what they think of what I am doing on this trip. I sometimes wonder if I’d get more attention or attract more readers if I was traveling somewhere a little more conventional, like Southeast Asia or South America.  And I sometimes feel like I am disappointing people because I don’t have a plethora of hilarious stories and crazy encounters to share. I worry that I may be too boring (as someone actually commented on a post a couple weeks ago).

I need to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. I need to remember that this is my trip and I am the only one who can shape it into what I want it to be.
 

While I write this blog for my friends, family, acquaintances and readers I haven’t even met yet, at the end of the day, I am traveling for me.

 

And I need to travel on my terms.

 

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29 thoughts on “Traveling on My Terms”

  1. BRAVO for you, Katie! Never forget that you blog, chat, and interact with many other “travelers”…but you are in an ELITE group! A majority of people don’t have the guts or courage to follow a dream like yours! So…to anyone that said your posts are “boring” or whatever…that is easy to say from the convenience of the familiar and from their couch at home. Travel on my friend…I admire the heck out of you!!!!! NOTHING you post is boring to me…and I guarantee that you are far more inspirational to more people than you realize! But you are right…this is YOUR trip…YOUR dream…LIVE IT GIRL! Big hugs!

    1. Thanks Mindi! This means a lot coming from someone I have known for so long – and is a great reminder as well. I do end up talking so much with other travelers and comparing myself that I lose sight of the fact of how unique it is what I’m doing. My brother just sent me an email pointing that out as well and I think it’s something I need to think about and appreciate more. 🙂

  2. AWESOME! I am so happy you realized you’re traveling for YOU! We appreciate you taking the time to share it with us, but the experience is yours and is up to you to design.

    I have a theory about traveling that may or may not be true, but I think it is. It seems like when we’re traveling hard and seeing all the sights and are busy, busy, busy, we get burned out. It’s like our brains have absorbed all they can handle and they need some time to just slow down and process it all. That processing period can be months depending on what’s been happening.

    I remember when we pulled in to La Paz, Bolivia. It had been a hard couple of months with climbing up into the Andes. We had flown over the Nazca Lines and climbed around ruins at Macchu Pichu. We had visited the floating islands in Lake Titacaca. We had been so busy for so long it was like we were running on adrenaline.

    And then we arrived in La Paz. And we did nothing. I mean it – nothing. For five weeks. There’s a huge ruin right outside the city and we didn’t even go see it. It was like our brains had had enough stimulation for a while and we needed to give them time to catch up.

    It’s especially hard when you have a blog and your readers are writing to say, “Go here!” “See that!” and you feel like you need to do it all.

    The truth is that you don’t need to do anything. Or you can do everything. It’s up to you.

    I am so excited about being able to follow your journey – the ups and the downs and everything in between!

    1. Thanks Nancy!

      I think you are so right about needing to slow down and have processing time. I feel like that’s what Warsaw was for me. Almost everything was closed for the holidays the first 4 days I was here and then again the last 2 days for New Year’s so I’ve had A LOT of downtime. It has really been nice. I think I would’ve been miserable if I had pushed myself to go to Krakow.

      And yes, it is hard when you have a blog and get opinions from everyone. Part of the resolution to travel on my terms is to block all those other voices out telling me what to do. 🙂

  3. Katie, absolutely! You are traveling for yourself and I can definitely see your growth as you go along. Happy New Year to you!

    1. Thanks Kim! It’s weird I should even need to have this realization but I think I got too caught up in listening to other opinions out there – one of the dangers of blogging and putting yourself out there I suppose. 🙂

  4. Ditto what everyone else said – and you yourself said – you’re travelling for you, not us or anyone else at all! It doesn’t matter at all what other people think – that is one of the biggest things I have learnt from travelling.

    Happy New Year to you and I look forward to reading about your 2012 travels and I am pretty positive I won’t think they’re boring! (And I can’t believe a commenter said so? – really?!!)

  5. Oh Katie I have been there, you get caught up in blogging. The blog should document your travels, you shouldn’t travel so you can blog about it.

    I burned out in Buenos Aires because I felt like there was some things I should “cover” and then realized I wouldn’t do them if it weren’t for the blog so I didn’t go.

  6. Katie, I totally agree that you need to do what’s best for yourself, as I’ve learned the hard way. I think sometimes it’s a fine line, though. For instance, the first example you gave of deciding whether to go see the island that you really didn’t feel like traveling to, I’ve found that if I push myself a little to do or see something while traveling when I don’t really want to I’m happy about it later because later my strongest memory will be of what I did or saw, and not how much I would have rather slept or whatever. Of course we all have to take care of ourselves mentally and physically while traveling, so it’s important to take time out and I definitely do that in spades. Sometimes it’s the memory that counts, though. This is a great, thought-provoking post. Thanks for writing it!

  7. I get burnt out after being on the road for a few weeks so I can’t imagine what it’s like travelling long term. Last year I made the change to stop seeing all the major sights of the place where I am. I see one or two that really interest me and then spend the rest of the time wandering around or hanging out in cafes soaking in the atmosphere. It’s a much more relaxed way to travel and I’m much happier! You should really just do whatever you want and enjoy the experience.

  8. Congratulations Katie on listening to your gut and honoring what you wanted to do, not what “should” you do. A very solid new years resolution! My biggest warning when making decisions is that word, “should.” It’s become a warning signal to take a deep breath and listen to what I really want to do.

  9. Great post! I don’t like the word ‘should’ and each time I find myself thinking it, I ask, ‘says who’? It’s a mystery pressure we put on ourselves and it’s crazy! Good for you for letting it go!

  10. This is a great post. It’s funny how even when your miles from home you can still get preoccupied by what you should do, rather than what you want to do. Travel when it makes you happy, stay when it makes you happy. You’ll never be able to please everyone, and you shouldn’t have to.

  11. You are definitely not boring! I can’t name one person I know that has journeyed all throughout Russia and the old Soviet Union. I actually started reading your blog, because I couldn’t believe how brave and adventurous your trip sounded.

  12. I have the same exact feeling whenever I travel. I should go do this, because what if I miss out! I think eventually you end up resenting this experiences which you are supposed to be loving to the point where you end up miserable. Glad you were able to take the night off and do what you wanted to do. I think NYE is overrated wherever you are anyway.

  13. Boring my arse! As someone who has NO INTEREST at all in southeast Asia, it’s refreshing to read about a traveller off the beaten path, going to some places I have never even heard of! I love it! Not every day is going to be a non-stop party. Just proof that travel is and can be like every other day, some are good, some are bad and some just are.

    I love reading about your travels!

    1. Thanks Rebecca – I appreciate it!! Glad to hear so many people don’t find me boring. 🙂

      I also have absolutely zero interest in Southeast Asia…I laughed after I wrote my post about hitting the wall, soooo many people were telling me to take a break and hit SE Asia and I just kept thinking, nooooo, that is about the last place I would want to go! 🙂

  14. I just experienced this while planning my trip for January, before I’m even there. I kept thinking I should plan to do this and that so that I could blog about it and look like I was doing cool things, but a lot of it seemed exhausting or just not something I want to do. Like couchsurfing. I want my own bed, not someone else’s floor….but I feel like people find me standoffish or less adventurous or something because of that. I think you hit home for a lot of us with this post, so props to you for speaking up!

    1. I hear you about Couchsurfing – I’m so independent I also fear being subject to what my hosts’ schedule or what they want to do. That being said, I found a happy medium while I was in Warsaw – I met up with a couple people from Couchsurfing who were great. One took me on a walking tour of the city and the other I just met up with for drinks. It was nice to meet some locals!

      Best of luck with your trip! 🙂

  15. Reading about your non-conventional travel destinations is a huge draw for me! (Well that, and realizing that it is really freaking cold outside of Southeast Asia.) There are loads of bloggers that write about Asia (myself included)and your travel destinations definitely sets you apart!

    1. Thanks Sarah! Glad you’re enjoying reading about the journey so far!

      It’s funny when you mention cold because after my time in Russia, the 40 F temps I’ve had in Lithuania and Poland have felt downright balmy! 🙂

  16. Yes, follow your gut…unless your gut tries to convince you to skip Derweze. Your brother says go and take awesome pictures because he’ll probably never get to go. Or they’ll finally put out the fire before he does.

  17. I worry too much about what other people think of me too sometimes, and it gets exhausting. It’s really not worth it, but a hard habit to break sometimes. Like spending NYE in your hotel room, if that’s what you want to do, great! I have a day and a half left in Auckland, and I plan on spending the whole time on my laptop and doing laundry. The blog is something you’re doing for yourself, not to please others, so write it however you want to, and travel however you want to.

  18. Oh Katie, how timely!
    I linked through to your blog from a BootsnAll tweet. I’ve spent the last couple of months deliberating over destinations where I can do something with a ‘wow’ factor for my impending 50th birthday.
    Your words I’ll take on board as advice, as I too worry about all those same things you were. I started my indie travel late in life, have done some travel that really tested me (eg Inca Trail) and feel like I need to keep ‘bettering’ the last travel, in some weird way (what’s something that folks don’t expect a 50yo woman to do, solo? Right, I’m doing that! kinda mentality).
    Then there’s the ridiculously long travel list. It’s all too much pressure! I’m going to just step back and consider what I’d truly like to do -just for me- on my milestone 50th.
    Thanks, you’re wise beyond your years (but travel does that, eh?)
    I hope your the rest of your trip proves to be as enlightening and wondrous for you.
    Kym from Australia

  19. I can’t believe anybody would actually comment on a post of yours and would call you boring. How many people do you know who are even brave enough to do a trip like yours?! Anyways, I agree with you about the whole feeling like you should do something or feel something. So many times when I travel for longer than a week or two, there will be a day when I just need a break and don’t want to leave the apartment of friends or family we’re staying with. Sometimes I make myself go out anyways and a lot of times I end up enjoying myself. But lately, I’ve also resolved to follow what I actually feel like doing more on my trips. Yes, that means on my latest trip I missed out on a parade in Hong Kong that was “on my list”, but it also meant that I was much more relaxed the next day and enjoyed other things we did more. Hard to find a balance sometimes though.

    1. It’s interesting you ask – I hadn’t looked back at this post since I wrote it and in retrospect, I can’t say I accomplished all of them – at least not as much as I was thinking I should when I wrote the post.

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